Land Rover Kenya CEO invited us inside this sexy Jaguar F-type and revealed how he is steering RMA Motors in the right direction

Sanjiv Shah has been a petrol head since the age of 9yrs, he is spiritual, smart and a shameless addict.

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He has been a petrol head since the age of 9yrs and this October he will be celebrating his 31 Years anniversary in the motoring industry.

I recently met with him in his office located at westlands, Nairobi to talk about his love for cars and more importantly Jaguar Land rover business in Kenya.

George: First things first, they say a good day depends on how it started in the morning, so what is your morning ritual?

Sanjiv: First thing I do after getting out of a shower is get dressed, brush my teeth before I get dressed to come to work, I then put something on so that I don’t smell too bad throughout the day and I am done.

George: 9 years ago at the age of 44yrs you actually threw in the towel and quit this industry but here you are, are you that addicted to cars? What brought you back?

Sanjiv: I am a car addict (laughs)after Hillcrest I was in the UK for 24 years before I decided to come back home. Coming to Kenya was a sentimental decision not a commercial or a financial decision, In fact I said to myself and the last famous words were “I have had enough of the motoring industry”, I was 44 at that time and I was yearning for something different but three months later I was back in the motoring industry.

So what were the challenges? The challenges were really what could I bring here I didn’t want the same old same old, so I said to myself if I was going to come back into the motoring industry what will I do, why should I be back? It had to be something new something dynamic and that is how this journey started.

So I started by working in different places in Kenya including our rival brands because I didn’t understand how the Kenyan motoring industry worked. I worked at middle level management positions because that is the best position to be in if you want to know what is going on in an organization, the bottom tells you and the top tells you.

And what I understood is that very few Kenyans have the opportunity without the experience to proof themselves, so if you take our company for example, RMA-Kenya, over 50 percent of the team are non-motor traders, over 50 percent are under 30yrs old and about 50 percent  are male or female, so Isn’t that what we all strive for?

George: You are currently driving a Jaguar F-Type which I must say it is a beautiful sports car, but how does it handle Nairobi speed bumps?

Sanjiv: First of all let me say it is a very sexy looking car; it’s a nippy small car that is great for Nairobi traffic. Contrary to popular belief sports cars are practical for Kenya and particularly for Nairobi, our roads are getting better and better and the speed bumps are not nearly as high as people make them out to be.

George: Jaguar Land Rover launched the Jaguar F-Pace in Kenya in July 2016, since then what has been the response so far in terms of sales?

Sanjiv: the reaction at the launch was very good, we could only import the 3litre supercharged engine to start with, that was a global decision as a result of that the sales were slow to start with. The 2litre version and more particularly the 2litre diesel version we only got  deliveries of that from December last year and the take up of the 2litre diesel has been extremely good.

There is a market for the 3litre engine petrol but as you know it has a bit more powerful engine which requires more fuel but I won’t say it is a fuel guzzler.

So the take up was slow to start with but we are happy with the progress, we have pitch and price it in terms of pricing around about range rover evoque territory but it is a bigger car than the range rover evoque. So far it has been a 50/50 split between men and women buying it.

George: For curiosity sake, this is a first for Jaguar because it has never produced a SUV before, how did you guys arrive at this decision?

Sanjiv: Sure, jaguar has never ever produced a SUV before, they haven’t because in the days of old SUV didn’t exist, there was a saloon car, a station wagon and a sport car but as life style changed and people started engaging in more sporty activities which required more space and a sporty aspect about it so that is why the sport utility vehicles came out.

Jaguar thought long and hard about it and felt and I think it is the right decision that they were missing out something in a space.

So that is how they come up with Jaguar F-pace which is typically a sporty off-road car and the customers that we have actually said how impressed they are with the Jaguar F-pace ability off-road

George: let’s shift gears for a minute and talk about sales, in Africa what are some of your bestselling car models?

Sanjiv: From our land drover point of view, the car that anybody that is successful, aspiring to be successful all aligns themselves with a particular lifestyle, Range rover, they all want to be seen with a Range rover not because we say so it is because the public says so, look at the success of the range rover it has totally dominated the market space in 2016 even at the price tags that exists for range rover.

The choice for utility purposes vehicles is discovery of course, discovery 4 is a big voluminous car which we are going to replace with discovery 5 in the middle of this year, actually at the end of June. The discovery 5 is going to take the genes and genetic traits of the discovery four but the execution bit of it by shape will be different.

George: Let’s stick with Africa for a moment, what is your marketing strategy for this market?

Sanjiv:  The strategy that RMA, Kenya has deployed which in my opinion should be the norm is to give the consumers a choice. What I mean by that strategy wise is we offer new cars for sale that is obvious, but we have also launched the approved pre-owned programmed; that is a very long wording for used cars but why it is called approved pre-owned is because it goes through a rigorous 165 point check, where we check everything and recondition where necessary all of these car.

After that we then apply a 50,000 kilometer or a 24 month warranty to the qualifying cars and that gives Kenyans an opportunity to buy somebody’s used car, that is a new car to them and feels like a new car with the backing and security that they have a warranty that they can always come at RMA, Kenya whenever an issue arises.

It is important to offer consumers a choice of buying a brand and coming in at an entry point which is second hand car for lack of a better word, but it is Kenyan sourced and it is Kenyan backed and that is very important, because we have particular and peculiar road conditions when we get of Nairobi and cars need to be fit for the purpose.

George: You have had a very stellar career since you entered the motoring industry; at RMA motors, Kenya for example you guys have won a number of great awards like, JAGUAR IMPORTER OF THE YEAR 2015/16 and East Africa's Super brand 2015 / 2016, not to mentioned you being bagging the entrepreneur of the year award, 2016. How do you make all these magic happen?

Sanjiv: It is really nice to get those kinds of awards and recognition because I believe one should do things with total passion and commitment. Unfortunately in life nobody tells you if you have done anything right but they do tell you if you have done something wrong and then everybody jumps into the bandwagon.

So when that piece of paper or that little trophy comes along, it is actually your inner voice that is saying “Ooh wow is that what we did” but all of these only happens with a team, so whether I get an entrepreneur of the year award or the leadership, the business gets the importer of the year award which we did, it makes us feel good but get complacency never and ever, feel good but don’t get complacent.

George: Where do you see RMA Kenya and your career in the next 10 years?

Sanjiv:  RMA-Kenya current business model is based on Jaguar land rover, it is a premium brand it is probably the most expensive brand in Kenya that you can buy. I don’t say that in any arrogant way I am just saying as it is, you know it is the Rolex of the Rolexes.

Where I see our business model going is the inclusion of other brands, we are currently working on an exciting new project and if all goes well or as one would say God willing, then later this year I would like to share some exciting news on three other brands that we intend to introduce into our market space here in Kenya, regionally and the whole of Africa.

George: Any parting advice to millennials, petrol heads and anyone out there who seeks to drink from the tree of wisdom?

Sanjiv: Again you know it is cliché about being perseverant, you know people say keep at it, persevere it will come good; yeah it is easier said than done.

My advice is if you do stick by it and you don’t see the light then get out, if you stick to it and you start seeing the light then work harder, the reason is I have been before myself, I wasn’t born at 52 I have been through all those years and there were hard times but I could see the light, so I kept going for it.

When 9 years ago I decided that I didn’t want to be in this space anymore, I got out and actually spent two years in aviation, I have a pilot’s license but I don’t fly commercial planes, so my advice in one sentence is stick to it if you can see the light, if you don’t get out and try somewhere else, life is short don’t waste it.

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